One of the most genuine expression of thanks is when one of our grads speaks to a current class of students. In this spirit of heartfelt gratitude, an alum from St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland, OR returned to address the graduating class last year:
First, I want to say thank you to Mr. Chambers for giving me the opportunity to share all the wisdom that I now possess at age 24. I’ve attended tons of graduations and I never once considered the idea that someday, someone would want me to talk to students advancing to another level of education. Today is the day. As Drake says, I’m way too young to be feeling this old.
I am before you today as a true St. Andrew veteran. I graduated from St. Andrew in 2005. I came to St. Andrew unwillingly because signing up for uniforms and school chores did not sound appealing to the 11 year old me. To be honest, dress clothes and chores still don’t sound appealing to me now. With that being said, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing got me more excited than academic challenges between the classes. If there was ever a situation where the boys had to go against the girls in an academic competition, like LeBron James, I did everything I could to put the team on my back. Ten years ago, my classmates and I were part of early St. Andrew history and we had no clue. I’m getting married in two months and 1/3 of my groomsmen are guys that I met 13 years ago, at St. Andrew. Looking back at my experience, all of my time at St. Andrew was with a group of guys who truly felt like my brothers.
When I got to Jesuit my life changed. I was no longer in a school where everyone looked like me or shared my struggles. I went from a school of minorities to literally being THE minority in every class. I was raised to be a leader, but at age 14, I had no idea what I was doing. As time went on, I realized that I was at that particular high school for a reason. I realized that I had something to offer the world and I just didn’t know it yet. By the time we reach high school, we are unlike any of our peers. You did not go to a public middle school and you didn’t go to a private school of middle-class families. You’re unlike other minorities and you’re definitely not like those in the suburbs. While this may sound scary, you must embrace it. Each day that you experience something uncomfortable at your new high school, think about your St. Andrew community. This small school has truly given you the tools to conquer the world. I know it seems easy for me to say it considering where I am now in life. Let me remind you, when I came to St. Andrew, I was barely taller than Ms. Roberts, I liked chocolate lucky charms, I wanted to be in the NBA and I truly believed I was going to be a movie director. I’m talking to you know as a former college football player and future attorney. St. Andrew gave me the foundation to have confidence in myself and realize that anything is possible if I work hard. There are lots of people in this world who know about St. Andrew, but there are only a few who can say they lived it.
You only get one life. If you say you have dreams, then follow them. You will be in classrooms and offices amongst some of the smartest people in the world. You will build relationships with professional people who have never met a young person like you. You will face situations where all you want to do is turn around and go be with the people who understand you. But you must understand, because of where you come from, and how you were raised, you represent more than just yourself. Show the world that our brown and black faces are full of passion and positivity. Use awkward situations as moments where you can educate others and demonstrate that who you are goes much deeper than the way you look. My freshman year of high school was uncomfortable and intimidating. However, if I would’ve transferred and let fear get the best of me, I wouldn’t be here today as proof that you can do it too. I focused on what mattered to me and I got to work. You say you want to be an athlete or an astronaut, start making professional athlete or astronaut decisions. I remember I was so determined to play basketball at Jesuit that I would film myself play basketball for hours and then go home and watch the footage when I was done. Fast forward to college, I stopped playing football so I could become a lawyer. Because of how badly I wanted to go to law school, I studied for the Law School Admissions Test, in the library each morning, for months, on top of my actual college classes. I tell you this because each of you is just like me. Each of you is meant to do something. Each of you is capable of hard work. St. Andrew groomed me to show the world what I had to offer.
Although it’s 2015, because of St. Andrew, you get to become a pioneer of success for your family and your community. Not many people get the opportunities that we do. Nothing that I accomplish means anything if I don’t bring my friends and family with me. It’s the reason I brought all of you to Lewis & Clark this past March. Each of you has a unique talent that will someday make this world a better place. Along the way, make sure to tell your families and teachers thank you for helping you become great. All of these adults are here because they care about one thing, and that is you. If you’re bored right now, it’s okay, I’m almost done.
Before I leave, please remember these three things: First, work hard now and live the rest of your life like a champion. Second, have fun. Third, never forget where you came from when you finally get to where you’re going.